- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2012

The recent editorial “Blue helmets at the ballot box” (Comment & Analysis, Thursday) describes our observers here at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as “Europeans” and “election inspectors.” However, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization and includes among its participating nations the United States and Canada, as well as countries from Central Asia.

Further, ODIHR observers in the United States are drawn from 23 countries, but they do not represent their respective governments. They commit themselves to follow the ODIHR election observation methodology and code of conduct, requiring them to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way. ODIHR observers are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.

ODIHR observes elections on the basis of political commitments that the United States and all other OSCE participating states made in 1990. Since then, it has conducted hundreds of election-related activities and deployed thousands of observers to more than 50 countries. Our work has been highly praised by all U.S. administrations, which routinely base their own assessments of foreign elections in large part on our findings.

In February, the U.S. government invited ODIHR to observe the Nov. 6 general elections, as it has observed five other elections at the invitation of various U.S. administrations since 2002. The suggestion in the editorial that our activities are influenced by certain civil society groups is not correct. Our observers have met with and will continue to meet with a broad range of individuals and groups from across the political spectrum. This is essential to providing balanced and impartial reporting on electoral issues, which is reflected in our reports on these and previous elections in the United States. All of our reports are available on our website, osce.org.

While we appreciate your coverage of our activities, it is important that the nature and basis of ODIHR’s election observation be reported objectively in order to provide voters and the international community with the confidence those activities are designed to promote.

AMBASSADOR JANEZ LENARCIC

Director, OSCE/ODIHR

Warsaw